We sometimes go weeks or months without getting behind the wheel of a direct-drive wakeboard boat. Then on a sunny morning near Malibu’s California factory, we stepped into the Malibu Wakesetter 21 XTi and zigzagged across Lake Tulloch like we were in a Maserati. The Malibu Wakesetter 21 XTi has that kind of performance and that vibe in the interior, from the hand-wrapped dash to the plush rear lounge — beautiful day.
Hull: The Malibu Wakesetter 21 XTi shares the same hull with the identical length and beam as the high-end Malibu Wakesetter VLX, so it has a solid pedigree. Construction is solid, too, with Malibu's full stringer system and through-bolted engine mounts.
Ballast: The standard here is a 500-pound center bag with no extra bags or tanks available, so this is the lightest factory ballast system that Malibu has. With the engine center-mounted, the back of the boat doesn't ride as low as the typical V-drive.
Tower: Malibu's new Illusion XS wakeboard tower isn't offered on the Malibu Wakesetter 21 XTi, but there's still the Illusion X wakeboard tower standard — the cool, swooping arc that offers full driver visibility. The Titan III wakeboard tower is also available for the traditional metal-tube look.
Wake shaper: The Malibu Wakesetter 21 XTi's ballast is limited, so more than ever we'll tell you to pay up for the Power Wedge. Malibu says it can push down the equivalent of 1,200 more pounds of force into the water. Our testers put it at one click from all the way down to get as much size as possible from the wakes.
Highlight feature: The Malibu Wakesetter 21 XTi's rear lounge is rare to have in a direct-drive. Malibu has shifted the usual sun pad and trunk to a side compartment along the center engine box. That way six people can fit in the back to enjoy the ride and the riding.
The wake: After trying out a few line lengths and speeds, our riders thought the best spot was at 70 feet and 21.8 mph. The wake doesn't have the punch of the bigger Malibus with heavier ballast, but it does have a mellow shape that's fun for most riders.